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Robust early voting numbers making commissioners ‘proud’ of Carroll County

Early voting has reached its halfway mark, and Carroll County continues to turn out in large numbers for the 2020 general election.

Katherine Berry, elections director for the Carroll County Board of Elections, shared information that shows more than 17,000 Carroll countians had cast a ballot by Thursday afternoon. Fewer than 20,000 took part in early voting during the 2016 general election, previously the county’s top early voting total according to data from the Maryland State Board of Elections, so it looks as if Carroll will easily surpass that record.

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“Very proud to be a Carroll countian seeing how much voting is happening right now as early voting continues through this weekend,” said Carroll County Commissioner Ed Rothstein during an open session meeting with fellow commissioners Thursday morning.

According to Berry’s data, 4,293 voters cast ballots on Monday followed by 4,765 on Tuesday and 4,435 on Wednesday. More than 3,800 voters had braved steady rain and long lines on Day 4 of 8, according to an email sent by Berry at about 6 p.m. Thursday.

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“It’s excellent,” Berry said about this week’s attendance. “Early voting costs a lot of money to run. It takes a lot of time to coordinate, organize, facilitate, hire election judges. And so it is very rewarding to see so many people coming out and exercising their right to vote.”

Berry said she has been getting to the senior center early in the morning each day to help set up, and is greeted by voters already forming the line in the dark. People have been arriving as early as 5:30 every morning, Berry said.

“I’ve had some fantastic conversations with voters while waiting in line,” she said. “The voters have been very patient and just very wonderful, and grateful to everything that the election judges are doing. It has been a great week so far. We are looking forward to the rest of the voting period, for sure.”

Berry said she thinks Carroll will surpass the 2016 early voting total as early as Friday.

In 2016, Carroll used only the Westminster Senior and Community Center for early voting purposes. This year there are two sites, the senior center and South Carroll Swim Club. Berry said a third early voting site is being planned for 2022, most likely in the northern part of the county.

The number of early voting centers is dictated by the number of registered active voters, Berry said. Carroll is at 127,051 registered active voters, according to board of elections data.

Berry said the county had to be at 125,000 active voters by August of 2019 to be granted an additional early voting center, as per Code of Maryland Regulations. Carroll didn’t meet that number at the time, but Berry said she put in a special request to the Maryland State Board of Elections in the winter about making an exception to get a third voting center, but the pandemic squashed any progress there. With the number where it is now, at the close of registration, Berry said Carroll is prepared for the additional site for 2022, she said.

On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, Carroll will be using 13 different sites across the county for in-person voting centers. Until then, early voting continues from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day through Nov. 2.

Denise Riggin of Manchester and her daughter Juliana, 2, brave the rain as they wait in line to vote at the Westminster Senior and Community Center, one of two early voting locations open in Carroll County Thursday, October 29, 2020.
Denise Riggin of Manchester and her daughter Juliana, 2, brave the rain as they wait in line to vote at the Westminster Senior and Community Center, one of two early voting locations open in Carroll County Thursday, October 29, 2020. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

Both sites have experienced long lines since early voting began Oct. 26, and the public has shared experiences on social media about everything from wait times to traffic and parking situations.

Berry dispelled some rumors via email Wednesday afternoon, saying people were talking about 4-hour wait times in Westminster. If the line is halfway down the entrance sidewalk, toward Stoner Avenue, Berry said the wait time should be approximately 80 minutes.

At South Carroll Swim Club, Berry said, a line that extends into the parking lot and down the main drive shouldn’t be longer than 60 minutes.

People have been using Facebook community pages all week to describe their experiences, and many were posting positive reviews Thursday of the entire process.

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“I am impressed with the way people are handling it,” County Commissioner Richard Weaver said during the open session meeting. “They are distancing, they are tolerating lines, they’re doing everything they should be doing.”

County Commissioner President Stephen Wantz said he has been in contact with Berry and the elections board throughout the week and hasn’t heard of anything keeping people from exercising their right to vote early.

“For the most part, it sounds as if they’re going off without a hitch,” Wantz said. “From what I understand it’s going really, really well. Proud that in Carroll County we haven’t had any incidents or ... knucklehead activities.”

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